Whitestone Gallery Hong Kong is proud to present the group exhibition “GUTAI-JIN in Hong Kong,” featuring paintings and installation works by key members from historic Gutai Art Association and contemporaries.
GUTAI (具体) is Japan’s most significant avant-garde collective of the postwar era, founded by a group of young artists and their leader, Jiro Yoshihara in Ashiya, Japan in 1954. The group is best known for its experimental approach to art, which combines performance, painting and environmental installations, and its restless pursuit of individualism and creativity.
“It is our desire to embody the fact that our spirit is free. It is also our hope that no restrictions will be placed on the desire to experience fresh sensations through every form of expression,”
– Gutai Manifesto, 1956
By the time of the group’s disbandment in 1972, Gutai had fostered close associations with and staged collaborative exhibitions with notable western artists such as Guiseppe Capogrossi, Sam Francis, John Cage, Alfred Leslie and Georges Mathieu. In recent years, Gutai has been re-evaluated in retrospective exhibitions mounted by major international institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum, New York and the National Art Center, Tokyo.
The word GUTAI-JIN (具体人), which translates as ‘Gutai people’, was first conceived by the Karuizawa New Art Museum. While preparing for a major Gutai exhibition, the museum began to collect an archive of artists from the collective. In this process they realized that majority of past retrospectives had focused on the so-called “Gutai period,” which ranged from the collective’s foundation in 1954 to its dissolution in 1972. However, artists who belonged to the group continued their activities after the disbandment and continued to follow Yoshihara’s guiding principal: “Do what has never been done before!” Thus, “GUTAI-JIN” came to represent Gutai artists who never ceased to create innovative art throughout their careers. The museum introduced and advocated for this term through a series of exhibitions and conferences.
“GUTAI-JIN in Hong Kong” represents the first gallery exhibition to the relevant artists under the title of “GUTAI-JIN”. The exhibition will utilize Whitestone Gallery’s two-floor exhibition space on the seventh and eighth floors of the H Queen’s Building in downtown Hong Kong. The eighth-floor space will focus on significant pieces from key members of Gutai Art Association; Jiro Yoshihara, Kazuo Shiraga, Shozo Shimamoto, Chiyu Uemae, Atsuko Tanaka, Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Yasuo Sumi, Sadamasa Motonaga and Yuko Nasaka. The seventh-floor space will be divided into two sections, one presenting a special solo exhibition of Shuji Mukai and the other showing artists who cross-pollinated ideas with the Gutai Art Association: Toshimitsu Imai, Hisao Domoto, Paul Jenkins, Georges Mathieu and Turi Simeti.
This is the first time a Hong Kong gallery has shown Shuji Mukai’s three-dimensional works covered with symbols and his new installation work, “Overpainting of Value” which comprises gold bars covered with repetitive symbols that imbue the coveted precious metal with new value that is separate from its materialistic worth.
“GUTAI-JIN in Hong Kong” takes fresh look on not only at Gutai artists, but also at how participating artists applied their creative energies throughout their careers. The exhibition highlights individual artists rather than emphasizing the movement as whole. This is accomplished by presenting important works by each artist regardless of the year of the creation. As part of the survey program, the gallery is publishing an essay about Gutai by Tadao Ando, an internationally acclaimed architect, and will host a gallery talk in which artist Shuji Mukai will discuss Gutai and its core spirit.